This past Saturday, the nation as whole watched — with either heart-wrenching horror and pain or with a problematic smirk — as Brett Kavanaugh, an accused sexual assaulter and an angry, entitled partisan, get confirmed to serve a life appointment on America’s highest court.
It’s hard to imagine this outcome hasn’t been swirling around in the mind of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, since Antonin Scalia’s death in 2016. He and many other Republicans saw a long-term game that could only go one way for them — a securely positioned conservative majority for the next generation.
In the years since 2016, Democrats have largely rolled over, conceding to the Republicans on the grounds that they must honor and perpetuate civility. Taking the high road is commendable and deserving of respect — but for the Democrats, it just isn’t working.
In 20, 50, 100 years, we may remember Trump for the destruction of the republic and democracy — but we cannot forget McConnell’s role in this long and gruelingly malicious partisan fight. Time and again, McConnell has lambasted and opposed the Democrats and democratic norms to further his own far-right agenda.
It’s time for Democrats to fight back, and there’s one phrase they should imprint into their psyche: pack the courts.
What is court-packing?
In the simplest terms, court packing is the mechanism of adding Supreme Court justices to a nine-person Supreme Court. Packing the court is legal — it’s a practice that’s been used throughout the history of our country. Abraham Lincoln famously added a justice during the civil war, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, while unsuccessful, tried to add justices supportive of his New Deal legislation.
Despite its intense name, packing the Court is a mundane thing. As a bill, all one would need to add a seat on the Supreme Court would be a majority vote in Congress and the president’s signature. From there, the nominee would go through the standard confirmation process.
Packing the Court carries numerous advantages, which can’t be understated. Democrats have been responding to the growing popularity of progressive politics. Over the past few months and years, progressive ideas — from the abolishment of Immigration and Customs Enforcement to supporting “Medicare for All,” to overturning the Citizens United ruling — have become litmus tests for scrappy Democrats hoping to gain national notoriety.
But if these movements have any chance of being passed into law and becoming firmly cemented into society, there will need to be a left-leaning and left-controlled Supreme Court.
It’s not only about ensuring progress. Packing the court is a crucial part of safeguarding human rights and protections now at the mercy of today’s super-conservative Supreme Court.
There is now no swing vote on the Supreme Court. With Kennedy’s retirement and Kavanaugh’s confirmation, human rights, or the lack thereof, are going to be at the mercy of our highest court.
There is now a majority which can overturn Roe vs. Wade. The lives of women are at risk, and gambling over their right to choose and control over their own bodies is unequivocally unacceptable. The floodgates have opened for courts to decide which human rights protections are worth slaughtering in the name of partisan control.
Further, any argument against packing the Court in the name of civility or “well, what would the Republicans do in response?” is naive and irrelevant. Throw out civility and burn any past norms and procedures because the Republicans will never honor or respect them. And in response to the other point, Republicans have already packed the court, and they’ve already stripped the court. They held it by its throat in an eight-person purgatory deadlock for months and vowed to do everything in power to keep it that way if Hillary Clinton won the presidency.
Also, five of the nine current justices have been nominated and confirmed by two presidents, both of which have lost the popular vote. How is that emblematic of a well-functioning democracy? It’s high time to throw out the playbook.
We have nothing to lose except our politeness. Pack the Supreme Court, and pack it all costs. There’s too much at stake to do anything else.
Adam Ramer ([email protected]) is a senior majoring in political science and history.